Gottman and Gray: The Two Johns

John Gottman and John Gray are two gurus of marriage and relationships. There the resemblance ends. Gottman virtually invented the science of observing people in relationships. INSET: A tale of two relationship gurus.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published November 1, 1997 - last reviewed on December 22, 2016

Walk into any bookstore in America, head for the psychology section, andthere shelved side by side--until sales do them part--you'll find two of the gurus of marriage and relationships, John Gottman, Ph.D., and John Gray, Ph.D.

Gottman, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, virtually invented the science of observing how people behave within relationships. From groans and grimaces we scarcely notice, Gottman can predict the likelihood of marital bliss with almost frightening accuracy. He's a prolific writer, but most of his work appears in scholarly journals. A few years ago he penned a book for nonprofessionals, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (Simon & Schuster). It sells respectably.

But Gottman's royalty checks pale compared to those of John Gray, who at last count had sold 10 million copies of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (Harper Collins) and its four sequels. His latest effort is Mars and Venus on a Date--hey, why restrict a hot concept to married folks? Or even adults: Gray is already developing a Mars-Venus approach to raising kids.

Of course, we haven't even talked about Gray's audio tapes and videos. Or his one-man show on Broadway earlier this year. The Celebrity Line cruises. CD-ROMs. Seminars. A recent prime-time television special. And the first franchise deal to hit psychotherapy: for a few thousand dollars, plus a yearly renewal fee, you too can buy the right to call your therapy practice a "Mars & Venus Counseling Center." Lack the appropriate professional credentials? So does Gray, who isn't licensed to practice psychology but is allowed to work as a "spiritual counselor" in California because of his nine-year stint as a monk.

John Gottman and John Gray, side by side. The placement invites--nay, demand--a comparison of the two. How do their information and advice stack up? The short answer is that Gottman is the gold standard while Gray is the gold earner. Gottman creates top psychology, while Gray mines pop psychology (or "poop psychology," in the words of one PT reader). Below, we've compiled a handy crib sheet from their writings and sayings. Judge for yourself.

A Tale of Two Relationship Gurus

ISSUE GOTTMAN

Academic credentials: Ph.D., University of Illinois

Licensed Psychologist

Best-selling book: Why Marriages Succeed (55,000 copies sold)

Number of journal articles written: 109

Academic research: Naturalistic observation of couples living in apartment laboratory, physiological monitoring.

Number of couples: formally studies 760

Cardinal rule: What people think they do in relationships relationships and what they actually do are two different things.

Defining statement: It's the everyday, mindless moments that are the basis of romance in marriage.

What makes marriage: Making mental maps of each other's work world.

What makes marriages fail: Heeding gender stereotypes; reactions to stress.

Relationship heroes: Men who put the toilet seat down.

Key gender difference: Men's and women's bodies respond differently when negative emotions become intense.

Marital conflict is virtually inevitable between two people.

Men's biggest mistake: Failing to take a deep breath during conflict.

Women's biggest mistake: Stating complaints as criticisms.

Why men don't help: They weren't trained to notice at home domestic concerns.

What the Johns say about each other: "I envy his financial success."

ISSUE GRAY

Academic credentials: Ph.D., by correspondence course, Columbia Pacific University (an

unaccredited institution)

License Driver

Best-selling book: Men Are From Mars (6 million and

counting)

Number of journal articles written: 0

Academic research None

Number of couples formally studied: 0

Cardinal rule of relationships: Men and women are different.

Defining statement: Before 1950, men were men, and women were women.

What makes marriage work: Heeding gender stereotypes.

What makes marriages fail: Gender differences in communication style.

Relationship heroes: Men who escape to their "cave".

Key gender difference: Women talk too much about feelings.

Basic reason for marital conflict: She hates Super Bowl Sunday.

Men's biggest mistake: Trying to solve her problems.

Women's biggest mistake: Giving advice.

Why men don't help: They give their all at the office, not at home.

What the Johns say about each other: "John who?"